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Hot topics in heart disease prevention and treatment

During February’s Heart month, celebrate heart transplant recipients, learn why hybrid ORs matter and how to prevent heart damage from cancer treatment

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – From prevention to treatment, cardiovascular medicine is changing rapidly.

During Heart Disease Awareness Month, experts at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center are available to discuss new strategies for patient care, and what’s happening in research to combat heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of death.

The University of Michigan Health System is partnering with Donate Life of Michigan and other hospital transplant programs 3:30-5 p.m. Feb. 14 at Art Moran Buick GMC in Southfield, Mich.,  to attempt to set a world record for the largest gathering of heart transplant recipients.  

At the event transplant recipients like high school band teacher, Scot Cannell, 50, of Saline, Mich., will celebrate their new lives made possible by a new heart. The event will raise awareness about the need for organ donation. More than 3,200 Michigan patients are waiting for life-saving organs.

“I had no family history of heart disease, but I found myself in need of a new heart,” says Cannell, a father of three who had a heart transplant at the U-M in April 2012, three years after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.  

From the rise of minimally invasive surgeries, understanding what foods can improve heart function and how to prevent heart damage during cancer treatment, here are some buzz-worthy topics in heart health: 

Repairing hearts without surgery -- New medical devices are driving the ability to offer cardiovascular patients minimally invasive treatments that shorten patient recovery and reduce potential complications of open surgery. With devices delivered via catheter, physicians are able to fix aneurysms and replace aortic valves (soon mitral valves, too) using small incisions. This trend in care is opening doors for patients who have limited options, and can help patients recover quicker.

Cancer treatment and heart disease –The University of Michigan’s Cardio-Oncology Clinic is working to prevent and minimize the heart damage that can be caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Nearly 2 million breast cancer survivors are at risk for heart disease following cancer treatment. Childhood cancer survivors also face a higher lifetime risk of heart disease.  

Getting better with age in spite of PAD -- Leg pain from peripheral arterial disease (PAD) can slow down older adults, but a state study shows it doesn’t have to. Elderly patients are no more likely than younger patients to suffer major complications or deaths after endovascular procedures to treat circulation problems. “A patient’s age may not be the significant predictor of whether they’ll experience complications,” says P. Michael Grossman, M.D., a U-M interventional cardiologist.

Postpartum cardiomyopathy -- On rare occasions, pregnancy can lead to postpartum cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure faced by women in their last month of pregnancy or five months after having a baby. The Women’s Heart Program at the U-M is able to help diagnose the undertreated condition, that’s most common in women women age 30 and over.

Why hybrid ORs matter – Hospitals across the country are building the oversized surgical suites, and by 2015, the U-M expects to open its third. Hybrid operating rooms enable the minimally invasive repair of heart valves and treatment of arrhythmias, aortic aneurysms and coronary arteries.

Impact of stem cells on heart treatment – A team of researchers at the U-M Cardiovascular Research Center is using stem cells in hopes of helping the 2.5 million people with an arrhythmia, an irregularity in the heart's electrical impulses that can impair the heart's ability to pump blood. A cutting-edge method developed at the University of Michigan Center for Arrhythmia Research successfully uses stem cells to create heart cells capable of mimicking the heart's crucial squeezing action.  Incredible research is also underway to grow heart tissue for patients, from their own skin cells, a breakthrough that could one day eliminate need for organ donation.

Living better with heart failure by changing what you eat  -- Heart failure is a leading cause of hospitalization for older adults, but the University of Michigan is exploring whether patients can live better with heart failure by changing what they eat.  A small study at the U-M showed diet dramatically lowered hypertension and improved heart function in adults, ages 60-70, with heart failure. Look at a one-day menu online and check with your doctor before changing your diet.

Hispanics and stroke – For a decade the U-M has partnered with health providers in Corpus Christi, Texas to reduce strokes among Hispanics, and it’s paying off:  Strokes are declining among older Mexican Americans. But there’s still a huge racial gap – the stroke rate is 34 percent higher among Mexican Americans than non-Hispanic whites. “With stroke causing such a personal, family and economic burden in minorities, our study focuses on Mexican Americans -- one of the largest and fastest growing segments of the U.S. population,” says Lewis Morgenstern, M.D., director of the U-M Stroke Program.

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